Telework for Federal Employees Gets Big Push

A bill aimed at driving down federal office rental and commuting costs, giving more flexibility to government workers, and cutting pollution emissions has passed the Houses of Congress. If signed into law, remote worker and mobile technologies are poised to see a boom.

If you've ever driven in or around the horrendous traffic of Washington D.C., then we've got some good news for you.

A bill that has been in the works since 2009 and would allow more federal workers to work from home is on the desk of President Obama. Known as the "telework" bill, the piece of legislation has passed the House of Representatives 254-152, after passing the Senate in September. The bill aims to make an impact by reducing dederal office costs, lowering greenhouse emissions, and saving workers time and money on commuting.

"This legislation will require agencies to implement formal telework policies across the federal government," said Congressman John Sarbanes, D-Md., in a statement. "A robust telework program will not only improve government operations during a disaster, it can also be used as a tool to reduce traffic congestion in the D.C. area."

The Telework Exchange, a public-private advocacy group that supported the bill, was pleased with the potential of the bill to establish federal telework policies and assign officials within federal departments and agencies to manage these policies.

"Telework has a positive impact on productivity, quality of life and the environment," wrote Sarbanes. "If fully integrated, it can save taxpayers money by increasing efficiency, reducing federal office space and improving employee retention."

In 2008, the number of federal workers telecommuting was 102,900, with 64 percent of them teleworking between one to three days a week, according to a report to Congress from a U.S. Office of Personnel Management study on telework.

"Programs have been shown to help individual employees successfully balance the responsibilities of work and family, increase the safety of neighborhoods, and reduce pollution," wrote the director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in the Congressional report. "The potential benefits of a teleworking workforce are now more important than ever: ... [I]t has become a critical tool in the struggle to balance stretched family budgets; with the threats of new strains of influenza, it provides an effective resource in the face of possible pandemic; as our Nation searches for ways to conserve energy, telework provides a valuable asset toward establishing green workplaces."

President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.